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LanzaTech in Coal to Ethanol Project in China; New Bio Energy Research Center

New Zealand-based Lanzatech, the developer of gas fermentation technology for producing ethanol and high value chemicals (e.g.: MEK, Butadiene) from industrial waste gases, has signed a memorandum of understanding with one of the largest coal producers in China, Henan Coal and Chemical Industrial Corporation, to build a demonstration plant to produce ethanol and chemicals via LanzaTech’s fermentation process using syngas resulting from the gasification of coal.

Also signed was a separate three-way letter of intent between LanzaTech, Henan Coal and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) regarding the establishment of a Bio Energy Research Center for the development, pilot production and commercialization of the technology to change coal-derived synthesis gas to ethanol fuels and chemicals.

The companies will jointly build a demonstration plant in Zhengzhou, Henan province, which will initially produce ethanol, and is targeted to be operational by the second half of 2011.

The research center, supported by multiple research institutes under CAS, will focus on developing important complementary process technologies, like product separation, water conservation and process integration. The research center will also focus on developing other high value added technology and products.

LanzaTech says that its microbe is able to use gas feeds containing mainly carbon monoxide and little to no hydrogen. With such feedstocks, the LanzaTech process makes its own hydrogen from the water in the system. This ability to operate in the absence of added hydrogen enables LanzaTech to utilize a broad range of feedstocks from steel mill waste flue gas to gasified biomass and municipal solid wastes and to reduce hydrogen demand in the overall fuels production process.

In August, LanzaTech announced that it had successfully produced 2,3-Butanediol (2,3-BD), a key building block used to make polymers, plastics and hydrocarbon fuels, using the company’s gas fermentation technology. (Earlier post.) In July, the company closed US$18 million in Series B financing from investors led by China-focused venture capital firm Qiming Ventures. (Earlier post.)



very interesting route.
Although I hope they don't intend to sell coal as biofuel, it is an interesting combination of technologies.
The ability to transform any carbon-source in syngas, and then, depending on the bug, transform it in different kinds of chemicals is very promissing.
An additional advantage is that the bugs are replaced extremely cheaply, while classical catalysts are often the most expensive parts of such an installation. No use of rare elements, no dangerous heavy-metal waste. The 'used catalysts' can be burned as biomass and recycled completely.


single cell protein is to valuable to burn as biomass, most microbial protein is complete in essential aminos like animal proteins this SCP meal once sterilized is perfect animal food for monogastric animals like swine and fowl, one could feed it to fish too, or cattle but cows do better on high protein grasses like alfalfa or coastal creeper grass.

Alex Kovnat

I am not enthusiastic about coal. It aggravates whatever problems we may be having with carbon dioxide induced global warming and also, underground coal fires are as much of a frustration as the recent BP offshore oil disaster.

Natural gas is a more environmental friendly raw material for producing carbon monoxide/hydrogen mixtures. There's a massive facility in Trinidad which produces perhaps a billion gallons per year of methanol, using processes to reform NG into CO + H2, followed by the reaction CO + H2 --> CH3OH.

This facility could be modified to synthesize CO + H2 into other chemicals, such as ethanol and higher alcohols.


I can not see China using coal for fuels when they use SO much for power plants. They only have a certain amount of coal reserves available and this will just deplete those faster.

Henry Gibson

Chinese engineers know that there is very limited biomass in the the world and that it is very expensive compared to coal; very much unlike the general populace of the US who force their politicians to require the use of biomass by law such as corn ethanol. Coal is the collection of many millions of years of biomass as is oil; It won't run out in the lifetime of any person now alive on the earth. Oil won't run out either in the same period and oil can be made from coal in many ways.

The US can ignore the CO2 in the air issue because it cannot do a thing to change it much as it has not been reduced in Germany with all kinds of laws and carbon rules. Many of the people of the US can go hungry and cold or the USA can ignore the calls for the immediate reduction of CO2 and support the production of liquid fuels from domestic resources even if that means putting a little bit more CO2 in the air. No one can prove that it would actually be putting more CO2 into the air, because the losses of C02 into the air from gas flaring, oil spills and production transportation cannot all be measured accuratly in these foreign countries. Bacteria convert oil spills into CO2.

The higher expense of getting oil from oilshale is less than the current market price of crude oil, but there are no factories. People mine gold eventhough it is very expensive to do so. Oilshale can produce enough energy and water to allow its economic production without any external source of energy or water considering present oil prices.

A coal to clean consumer fuel factory in the US captures most of its CO2 and sells it out of the country where it is used for increasing oil well production and is left in the ground. Such operation is also possible for other consumer fuel production. In fact Lanza Tech should build a biofermentation unit at this factory as well for the production of ethanol and it would be the lowest CO2 production of ethanol in the world including all corn and biomass ethanol. People ignore the CO2 produced in the process of making ethanol from corn.

Laws that protect oilshale production from energy and oil market speculations are needed just as they are being used to protect the production of ethanol. The same needs to be done with factories that produce diesel and jet fuel from coal. This can be done with a dollar per gallon tax or more on imported fuel just as is being done for corn ethanol.

The Chinese government must now start its pebble bed nuclear reactor program to provide high temperature heat for the thermo-chemical production of hydrogen. The Carbon dioxide from fermenting processes and fossile fuel prodcution can be combined with this hydrogen for the production of liquid fuels like ethanol. High temperatures can free up CO2 from minerals in case there is a shortage of CO2 in the air. The waste minerals can then collect more CO2 from the air. ..HG..

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